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Jazz clinch last playoff spot in the West, eliminate Suns

Apr 25, 2012, 2:04 AM EDT

Derrick Favors, Marcin Gortat

The Jazz clinched the final playoff spot in the West on Tuesday, and knocked the Suns out of the postseason picture at the same time. In a game that was essentially a must-win for both teams if they were to keep their playoff hopes alive, Utah was too tough at home, especially inside, and were able to pull away for a 100-88 victory over a Phoenix team that was missing two of its starters, and largely overachieved in the second half of the season to even make it this far.

Paul Millsap did the heavy lifting for the Jazz, and finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Al Jefferson was huge down the stretch, scoring eight straight points that pushed a five-point lead to 13 with just over two minutes to play. He finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds, and Derrick Favors added 13 and 11 in 29 minutes off the bench.

Utah’s bigs made things extremely difficult for Suns center Marcin Gortat, who is used to scoring at the rim off of pick-and-roll feeds from Steve Nash. While the opportunities were there, the shots were challenged or blocked to the point where Gortat finished just 1-of-8 from the field with two points.

The Jazz seemed poised to put this game away earlier than they actually did, but a couple of scoring droughts, along with the competent play of the Suns’ bench unit behind decent performances from Sebastian Telfair, Michael Redd, and even Hakim Warrick kept things within reach for Phoenix.

Without Channing Frye, though, who was out with a dislocated shoulder, the usual spacing wasn’t where it needed to be for Nash to be able to do what he does in setting up his teammates for easy looks. As a result, the Suns offense couldn’t keep up with the repeated easy baskets Utah was able to get inside — the Jazz outscored Phoenix 50-40 in points in the paint, although it didn’t seem nearly that close.

At the end of the night — and the season — the Jazz deserved to get that final playoff spot more than the Suns. Phoenix gave it everything it had in coming from six games under .500 at the All-Star break to have this chance, but injuries and perhaps age caught up to the team and they simply didn’t have enough left in the tank to beat Utah in their building with a playoff spot on the line.

While Phoenix stumbled to the season’s finish line losing six of its last 11 games, Utah has won four in a row, and six of its last eight. That’s how you close a season out, and that’s how you find yourself having earned a spot in the playoffs.

  1. bearsandjazz - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:22 AM

    The Playoff experience is worth not having the 14th pick. No, I don’t expect them to win the series but watching a young and unselfish team free of egos make noise in the playoffs makes basketball fun again.

    • rooney24 - Apr 25, 2012 at 11:19 PM

      And, the Wolves get a draft pick. Win/win (kind of)

  2. thekingdave - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:33 AM

    This playoff berth courtesy of an epic choke job by the Rockets

  3. 00maltliquor - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:56 AM

    Awww great, a Spurs/Jazz 1st rounder, huh!
    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  4. lakerade - Apr 25, 2012 at 3:01 AM

    The Jazz fans deserve it more, but poor Nash.

  5. digitalpoo - Apr 25, 2012 at 3:03 AM

    Kurt, take notes from this guy. This is how you actually write an article.

    • gmsalpha - Apr 25, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      You don’t think Kurt’s typos are endearing?

  6. juicedtothemax - Apr 25, 2012 at 5:32 AM

    @thekingdave, yeah I agree Houston had that locked until they choked. Now spurs fans can take a nap until the 2nd round because we all know they will sweep Utah.

  7. jmclarkent - Apr 25, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    While my Jazz probably won’t win, I expect them to annoy the hell out of the Spurs with their youth and energy.

  8. jumbossportsblog - Apr 25, 2012 at 7:23 AM

    Reblogged this on jumbossportsblog.

  9. 11jlacy - Apr 25, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    Kudos to ty n his squad for making the playoffs nash my man u had a good run hall of fame next.

  10. BigBeachBall - Apr 25, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    Ladies and Gentleman, the great Steve Nash.

  11. fireinthedisco - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    Not a Miami bandwagoner or anything, but one last year for Steve Nash with the Heat would be the best option…and no one would blame him. On another note, having the top 16 NBA records playoffs would be a better option than taking the top 8 from each conference…the West is head and shoulders stronger.

  12. phx1311 - Apr 25, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    My team is out out the playoffs……damn….but I still have okc to root for!!!

  13. aboogy123456 - Apr 25, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    This should make the first round matchup between the jazz and spurs much more entertaining. I still think Spurs will win, but the strength of the Jazz is their big men and that will cause a lot of problems for San Antonio.

  14. 4thquartermagic - Apr 25, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    Congrats Utah you just won enough games to not only get smashed by San Antonio in a 4 game sweep but you also lost 2 lottery picks as a result of qualifying.

    Great management over there.

    • bearsandjazz - Apr 25, 2012 at 3:17 PM

      Hey 4thquartermagic you should probably check your facts. They didnt lose both picks. The jazz can still end up with a 1 lottery pick depending on how golden state finishes. Considering they traded Williams to avoid him pulling a MELO, got favors, Harris and Kanter Along with another possible top 10 pick seems like pretty good management moves to me. Idiots like you should do some fact checking before you post such a ridiculous and factually incorrect statement

      • 4thquartermagic - Apr 25, 2012 at 4:21 PM

        Point taken. However lottery picks change franchises and the point still stands they should’ve went for two lottery picks.

      • bearsandjazz - Apr 25, 2012 at 5:00 PM

        Your point is still idiotic. A team who’s drafted lottery picks should develop the team to avoid having to pick from the lottery year after year. Playoff experience is better than a mid 1st round propsect. The jazz have had 4 lottery pick players in the last 2 years getting Hayward, Favors, burks and Kanter. They didn’t need 2 more young players to Develop, they needed the current lottery players to develop and bring the team back to their winning history. With a possible #8 pick I’m sure tht will be enough to get what they need. I’m glad your not the Jazz GM or we would be as good as the bobcats or wizards…..those lottery picks year in and year out are really doing them some good.

    • techpeasant - Apr 25, 2012 at 4:44 PM

      Is there such a huge difference between the 14th pick and the 16th pick that you would suggest the Jazz forego an opportunity to play a minimum of 4 playoff games and possibly more? The experience for those young guys, Favors, Hayward, Burks, Kanter, even Jefferson will be invaluable down the line. And they will likely still end up with the 8th pick, unless the Warriors luck out and move up in the lottery. All-in-all, solid moves by management and the squad.

  15. 11jlacy - Apr 25, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    The jazz can upset the spurs they really can remember last yr memphis???

  16. borderline1988 - Apr 25, 2012 at 6:36 PM

    Utah has way too many competent big men. It’s unfair – David Stern should force them to give up at least 2 of them to less fortunate teams.

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